The heroin epidemic is leading to disastrous consequences in the United States. While the Midwest is the hardest-hit area, no portion of the country has escaped the drug. In Henrico County, Va., the epidemic has hit close to home. As in many communities, the people of Henrico County are taking it upon themselves to fix the issue of opioid abuse. In the beginning of June, the fire company hosted a free class teaching the people how to treat overdoses by administering naloxone.
Last week, the people of Henrico County again proved they were serious about their efforts to stamp out local heroin use when a jury recommended a 65-year sentence to a man convicted of purchasing heroin with the intent to distribute. The News Virginian reported that 46-year-old Norell Sterling Ward was characterized as a “midlevel heroin distributor,” who bought the drug in parking lots in Henrico County to take back to Charlottesville, where he lived, for sale.
Ward was convicted on two counts of possessing heroin with the intent to distribute and one count of conspiracy to distribute heroin. The prosecutor stated that dealer moved between 4 to 6 kilos of the drug in an 18-month-long period. Ward’s attorney stated that though the prison sentence is long, each felony caries a maximum punishment of 40 years, meaning that the jury could have recommended a 120-year sentence.
A local attorney told the News Virginian that judges rarely reduce a sentence but noted that they’re completely prohibited from upping the sentence. Virginia is one of the few states where juries recommend the length of a sentence. But Ward’s crimes in the midst of a heroin epidemic, mixed with his prior convictions (two for burglary and one for heroin possession) led to the jury throwing the book at the convict.